If you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, planting a memorial garden can be a helpful outlet for your grief. Not only does the act of gardening provide a sense of ease, but the finished result will give you a peaceful place to retreat to remember your lost loved one.
The therapeutic benefits of gardening have long been documented, as have the positive effects of nature on your well-being. According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, plants and gardening can aid in physical, mental and emotional healing. Additional research has shown that people who tend to plants are more compassionate and empathic—including to yourself during the grieving process.
When it comes to designing and planning a memorial garden, there are no hard and fast rules. They are deeply personal places and unique to each individual. The most important part of planting a memorial garden is to make sure it’s meaningful to you. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Find a private area.
A memorial garden can be as small as a single tree or as large as an oversized garden. Its size will depend on how much space you have to work with. If possible, plant yours in a quiet, private area where you’ll be able to find peace and solitude.
Photo by Zachary Hoover/Shutterstock.
Honor your loved one with their favorite plants.
Consider your lost loved one’s favorite plants and flowers. Were they more of a peony, poppy or petunia person? Did they always have a vase of fresh lilies or hydrangeas in their home? Do you associate certain scents or flavors—such as rose or lavender—with them? What was their favorite color? Did they love eating peppers and tomatoes? If so, consider planting a small vegetable garden plot as a tribute.
If their favorite season was fall, ponder plants like sunflowers, marigolds or chrysanthemums that will be in bloom during that time. If you’re honoring a war hero or veteran, you might include plants and flowers with red, white and/or blue hues.
Remember: Before putting any trees, shrubs, flowers or vegetables into the ground, make sure you assess the area’s sunlight. Some plants are sun lovers and some are shade lovers. Plant accordingly.
Research the specific meanings of plants.
Certain plants hold symbolic meanings. If you’re remembering a lost partner, you might plant sweetheart roses. Yellow tulips are for friendship. Red poppies represent eternal sleep. Forget-me-not flowers can, of course, represent remembrance, as can rosemary. An oak tree embodies strength, and it could represent someone who was the head of the family. Cacti suggest protection and endurance. Aloe symbolizes grief. Peace lilies offer peace and sympathy for those who have been through a recent loss.
Photo by Viktor Birkus/Shutterstock.
Add appropriate statues and/or decor.
Incorporate pieces that remind you of things they loved. If memorializing someone who loved dogs, why not include a small dog statue? If they enjoyed watching birds, find space for a birdbath or bird feeder that will attract them. Did they love music? Perhaps a wind chime will remind you of them. Spruce the area up with solar lights or lanterns to make it a comforting place even in the evening. Engraved rocks are also an option, and are long-lasting. The more you can personalize the garden, the closer you’ll feel to your lost loved one.
Include some place to sit.
The main point of a memorial garden is to serve as a place where you can go to remember someone. You’ll want to do that comfortably. Add a cozy chair where you can sit or even a bench engraved with their name or favorite phrase.
If possible, incorporate water.
The sound of trickling water is a natural soother. Installing a pond or fountain will make your memorial garden even more tranquil.